By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Sample a Variety of “off the beaten path” Things to Do!
Asheville charms visitors with magical mountains, scenic views, a welcoming southern charm and a variety of activities. An eclectic town that attracts a diverse group of travelers while young and old alike relocate to this special place. Each visit to Asheville finds us seeking new or out-of-the-norm activities in this bustling town. On this visit we explore Asheville’s latest “off the beaten path” activities.
Relax, Refresh and Re-energize! Take Asheville’s Wellness Tour! One of Asheville’s newest tours combines yoga, relaxation, and history. The Wellness Tour begins at the Asheville’s Salt Cave where we feel the cool dry air of this cave entirely of SALT. Options for relaxing in the Salt Cave are the wonderful zero-gravity recliners or comfy blankets on the cave’s salt covered floor. Breathing in this salt air with its healing qualities, our cares disappear. The 45 minutes quickly passes, then Cameron, the Traveling Yogini, softly speaks encouraging us to touch the salt. Picking up handfuls the salt gently slides through our fingers. From the Salt Cave, Cameron takes us on an easy stroll sharing the history of Asheville. Stopping at a park in Pack Square, she takes us through gentle yoga stretches. Continuing the tour Cameron points out special eateries, unique shops, an dideas for things to do.
The final stop is the Wake Foot Sanctuary & Shop. Huge copper pots of hot water with our special selected herb foot bathe are rolled out. Sinking into the plush comfy chairs and slipping our feet into the foot bathe is heavenly. A warm neck wrap covers our shoulders and all worries float away. My husband, initially apprehensive, loved it. A most unique tour! www.ashevillesaltcave.com or http://www.yogatours.net/
Learn the History of Beer Making on the BREW-ed Tour! When did brewing beer start? Why do breweries make more lagers? At what temperature should you drink beer? On the BREW-ed Tour, Cliff Mori is the ultimate BEER EXPERT! He answers all these questions and MORE! As a Certified Cicerone, Cliff is educated as a beer professional and elevates the beer experience for consumers. Our tour starts at Hi-Wire Brewing with a light-hearted circus theme. Only a year old, yet already expanding. As Cliff shares an extensive history on beer making and the brewery, we sample the “Main Attraction” Hi-Wire beers. On our walk to the next brewery, Cliff fascinates us with tales both Asheville’s history and beer. At Twin Leaf Brewery, Cliff explains this brewery focuses more on Belgian and British style beers. With its comfy welcoming picnic tables and outdoorsy feel we sample their tasty brews as our beer making education continues. Finishing up at Green Man Brewing with its craft seasonal and specialty brews, we sit outside as Cliff explains how India Pale Ale came about, temperatures for drinking beer and answers our many questions. Cliff excels in providing a most informative, educational, and fun beer tour. The BREW-ed Tour definitely lives up in both educating us on beer and sampling beers. www.BREW-ed.com
Go “Down on the Farm!” on an ASAP Farm Tour Visiting Asheville in late September we have a firsthand experience of being “down on the farm.” Thanks to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project affectionately known as ASAP, 35 farms in Western North Carolina open their gates and barns to the public. What a remarkable opportunity to visit local farms and learn their growing strategies, their special crops, new ventures in farming from growing berries to vegetables to raising cattle to rabbits to poultry to cheese making, and more! ASAP connects farmers and supporters to build a stronger local food system and healthier communities. Selecting the Fairview area we still just squeeze in three farms. At Hickory Nut Gap Farm there is something for everyone. Kids swing on tires or ropes, wade the creek, and families share picnic lunches. Joining a tour, we scramble over hills while the owner, Jamie, shares strategies in cutting edge sustainable farming. He educates us on changing to natural feeds for cattle and rotational grazing, rather than corn fed cows, resulting in healthier cows that have healthier beef with more omega 3. Intriguing! A lot of effort and energy goes into both sustainable farming and organic farming. Hickory Nut Gap also raises pigs, grows raspberries and apples. We check out their store which has some great beef, jams and more!
Just down the road we pop into Flying Cloud Farm, where the specialty is flowers and vegetables including eggplants, peppers, fall greens and sweet potatoes. Their self-service roadside stand is fully stocked with produce. U-pick flowers are also available. Personally, we just enjoy strolling the gardens and admiring the blooming flowers showing their fall colors. With the afternoon quickly passing we head for Imladris Farm specializing in berries, eggs, and rabbits. Starting with the Raspberry Patch Tour, we sample these fresh sweet raspberries and learn the best methods for growing raspberries. Growing raspberries is an art and a science to make the berries healthy for people and good for the soil. There is even an underground feed system for the raspberry bushes. Next we tour areas that breed rabbits, raise chickens and have free range eggs. The Farm Tour really educates us on sustainable agriculture. If you are in the area in late September be sure to check out the Farm Tour – fun and educational. asapconnections.org/events/asaps-farm-tour
DOUGH: Take a Cooking Class! Make Pasta from Scratch! Making pasta from scratch! Sounds demanding! Arriving at DOUGH, a chef-owned market and bakery in Asheville, we don our blue Dough Aprons as Emi Chiappa-Starnes, our instructor starts the class. Tonight’s menu is Gnocchi with a Creamy Walnut Sauce, Butternut Squash Amaretto Ravioli, and Linguini. Emi amazes us with her family history of growing up in Wales in a close-knit Italian community. Her Italian Grandmother, Nan taught Emi to cook “Italian!” Emi and her sisters just published Simply Italian –Cooking At Home with the Chiappa Sisters.
Making the Gnocchi starts with a dropping an egg into a volcano of a flour mixture and mixing. As the dough becomes a ball, we separate and roll the dough into long cigar-like strands. Cutting at an angle and then carefully rolling each tiny slice on a ribbed board we’ve made Gnocchi. FUN & EASY! Dropping the Gnocchi into boiling water, they float to the top when done. With a Creamy Walnut Sauce and fresh parmesan, the Gnocchi is delicious! Ravioli making begins again with a flour mixture and egg. Dividing the dough into balls, we then run it through a pasta machine to flatten it. Cutting it to size, we carefully squeeze in the Amaretto filling and seal the edges. While the Ravioli cooks, it’s time to make Linguini. Simple! Taking small balls of dough, we run them through the pasta press. Beware! Each piece goes through multiple times and thinner sections of the press before we can switch to the “linguine” cut section. Emi made it SO EASY. Sipping a red wine and savoring our Amaretto Ravioli we toast an entertaining and most enlightening Pasta Cooking Class. A huge hint from Emi is to use only “Napoli, Antimo Caputo, 00 Flour is the ‘Chef’s Flour’ from Italy.” www.doughasheville.com/
Waterfalls ‘n Wine – A Hidden Gem! Wow! A new amazing tour near Brevard, NC is the “Waterfall ‘n Wine Tour” coordinated by the Pisgah Field School. Gathering at the Pisgah Field School we meet Adam, our guide and load into a van. Transylvania County boasts over 250 waterfalls! Arriving at Looking Glass Fall it is an easy walk along the road to see this beautiful and most photographed waterfall. Continuing on to Sliding Rock Fall the path takes us to the top of the fall. At the base of the Sliding Rock Fall we share the excitement as a father takes his four year old and then his three year old on the “slide!” FUN! Both children are thrilled at sliding down the waterfalls slick rock surface. A major surprise is the pool at the bottom is only 60 degrees. BRRR! On to No Name Falls with a fairly steep path down to this long waterfall in the woods. Beautiful, serene and a great place for photos. More waterfalls await. At Slickrock Fall we even walk behind the waterfall. Daniel Ridge Falls is a mile up a wide path to see this magnificent fall. A huge rock face has the water dropping 110 feet. Even with a mild flow the major rock face of the waterfall is impressive. After a stop to see the trout farm, it is time for some wine tasting. In the charming town of Brevard, NC we visit the Broad Street Wines, a boutique wine store, where Connie, the owner, shares her wine expertise. The wines are fantastic! The samples include Syrah, Italian Wines, California wines and more. Using a tasting card in the special wine dispenser we can select 1 oz. 2 oz. or 4 oz. tasting. Broad Street Wines is definitely a cozy spot where locals and visitors enjoy weekly wine tastings and good conversation. Cheers to Waterfalls ‘n Wine! Beautiful waterfalls and excellent wines – the perfect combination! www.visitwaterfalls.com/calendar/event/waterfalls-n-wine/
If you go: Asheville continues to amaze us on each visit. New venues, activities, restaurants and breweries open each year. It is definitely a town of growth where businesses of all types are having huge success. Be sure to visit the Exploreasheville.com website to check out the calendar and “things to do”. Their Visitor Center is also an excellent source for friendly guidance on any visit. www.exploreasheville.com